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Mindfulness is one of the most overused terms these days, and has quickly becoming the mantra for many brands’ marketing objectives. But do they really understand what it means?
Jon Kabat-Zinn is credited to be the father of mindfulness when back in 1979 he created an eight-week course at the University of Massachusetts Medical School to treat patients with cancers and chronic pain.
His premise was simple. Based on Buddhist meditation, it was designed to soothe our neural networks. It worked, and has been shown over decades to reduce chronic pain by well over 50%.
Meditation is all about a concentrated focus in order to increase awareness.
Now, we come to the new 2018 food world definition of mindfulness, which I will describe as simply the quality or state of being conscious or aware—not quite as lofty as Kabat-Zinn’s program—but a huge step forward for the food industry, and for consumers.
This reflects a new consumer attitude mostly led by the millennial generation to truly understand everything they can about a particular food or beverage, and then supporting the company, whether it be brand or retailer, by aligning with their values and supporting them with their purchases.
Morgan Spurlock, of "Super Size Me" fame, said it best—"transparelocalicious"—which says it all. Transparent, local and delicious.
Consumers are reading more labels and understanding them.
Ken Dychtwald, in his 1986 book "Bodymind," was one of the first thought leaders of the baby-boom generation to present just how the mind and body influence each other. His objective was to offer tools to achieve higher self-awareness, but "Bodymind" also gave us a blueprint to understand how we make decisions about which foods we choose.
Innova Market Insights named “mindfulness” the No. 1 trend for 2018 and illustrates how that body-mind connection is influencing new food and beverage product introductions in the supermarket, and how that shopper is seeking out ethical claims on products. Seven out of 10 U.S. and U.K. consumers want to know and understand an ingredient list. Food and beverage brand introductions that feature ethical claims on their packages have increased sevenfold since 2010.
On-package human, environmental and animal ethic claims continue to grow.
Retailers such as CVS are executing on point with in-store executions like “snacks that give back,” and the hospitality business is promoting “vegetarian vacations” that are built on the foods they serve, and also detail how their buildings, facilities and business practices align with the holistic values of a vegetarian consumer.
Major brands such as Honda run ad campaigns designed to help others and new startups such as FoodMaven—which attracted Walter Robb, the ex-CEO of Whole Foods, as an active investor—is working to recapture the food that is lost in the system to prevent waste, and then selling it to foodservice operators at a huge discount.
One of the most critical areas that we are witnessing the mindfulness movement is how we approach food. We have shifted from movies and books that scare us to those that inspire us. Movies like "Okja," where a Korean farm girl raises her giant pig and finds out the truth, or Leo DiCaprio’s "Before the Flood" are great examples that motivate us to understand climate change and GMOs in ways never before taken that reaches both our intellect and our hearts. The movie "Wasted" finally brings real people and emotion to that overplayed and ignored statistic that 40% of all food is being wasted.
The new leaders of food are driven by a new set of corporate values: social conscience, health and wellness, enhanced nutrition and life hacking—and yes, they do want to make money.